Colby Amplification Park 45
Price: $2,500 (list)
There are legends that gear fanatics all know, and then there are hidden treasures known to only a few. Park amps were designed by Jim Marshall and produced in limited quantities. More consistent in construction and design than the ever-evolving Marshalls, the Park line had the tone and power that has made amps from the first decade of the company just as desirable as the namesake models.
Mitch Colby rose through the ranks at Marshall and started Colby Amplification with his Mod Machine and Dual Tone Booster amps. His Park line is now manufactured by select techs in New York with both NOS and modern components that do the job the way he knows it must be done.
The Park 45 head weighs in at 35.4 pounds, and that’s before you lug in your speaker cabinet (ain’t nothin’ easy about rock and roll). Two KT66 tubes, three 12AX7 tubes, and hand-wired circuitry are the magic behind the simple front panel with Channel 1 and 2 volume controls and two inputs per channel, as found on the early Marshall amps, as well as Treble, Mid, Bass, and Brightness controls, On/Off and Standby switches, and Mains fuse. The rear panel has two speaker outputs, AC socket, and Impedance selector switch, and HT fuse.
Cosmetics? Pure vintage simplicity, with the classic Park logo, white “banana” knobs with matching white hardware on the front panel, and expertly applied tolex and piping details. The only visual differences from a late-1966 Park front-mount head are on the back panel, where some parts have been modernized by necessity. Otherwise, every attempt has been made to keep the Park 45 authentic – even the fuse holders are made by the original manufacturer.
Inside the head, the aluminum chassis is heavier than the original and corner-welded for strength. The circuit boards are identical down to the original color. The standard Park 45 selectively uses NOS parts sourced from suppliers in South America and Europe.
The Park 45 owner’s manual ends with the admonition to “Plug in, set your controls, and play some music!” And so we did, through a Zinky cab with two Celestion Vintage 30 speakers, using a PRS P22, a Les Paul Standard, and a Strat Deluxe.
Park rates the 45 at 30 watts clean, anywhere up to about 6 on either Volume control. Crank either control past 6, and that’s where the fun begins, with the power peaking out at 45 watts driven hard. Each guitar, even at a hot volume, maintained its identity, with tonal qualities enhanced rather than masked by the big roar of the amp. With the Volume at 8 and crunch-tone fully in effect, the Tone controls on the amp are very effective, coloring the sound even through fully voiced power chords or sustained, harmonic-jumping long tones.
The 45’s two channels have distinct voices. With identical tone settings, the right channel is clearly edgier and more cutting than the left, though the volume outputs are similar. The ’Burstbucker-equipped Les Paul seemed to be the axe that the right channel loved the most – power begat power.
Inspired by advice from the manual, we plugged into the Park 45’s left-upper jack with a short 0.25″ cable connecting the lower-left jack into the upper-right jack of the right channel. Setting the right channel at an easygoing 6 o’clock, pushing the warmer channel up to 7, and volume-swelling a seventh-position D on the G string through the lead pickup, the D jumped to the A harmonic (as fingered on the high E at the seventeenth fret) and would have sustained forever, assuming the power didn’t go out or the neighbors didn’t pound on the door.
With the tone knobs straight up and the Strat plugged into the right channel, we fiddled with the left-channel Volume knob, drawing some subtle changes in treble response while holding down a D major chord at the fifth and seventh frets. Again, harmonics materialized through the fat, crunchy chord, first accenting the A found at the high-E fifth fret, and then the D at the tenth fret.
Backing off on the guitar volume control, a crisply defined rhythm sound emerged. But feeding the Park 45 with more gain for some classic rock and blues licks made us feel heroic, in an I-wanna-audition-for-the-Yardbirds kind of way.
If you want to feel something like that, check out the Park 45.
This article originally appeared in VG January 2015 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.